Writing Custom Vue.js Directives

Joshua Bemenderfer

When you talk about Vue.js, you usually talk about Components. Components, components, components. Components aren’t the only thing you can write with Vue though, and it’s a good thing too. What if you want to apply modifiers to your components? That’s where directives come in. Whether you knew it or not, you’ve been using them already. v-if, v-model, and v-for are all examples of directives. Today, we’re going to show you how to add an important directive that performs a critical task that we can’t live without. Setting the background of its element to a nice baby blue.

Creating a Directive

Let’s get right on into the thick of it then. Create a new file called AnnoyingBackgroundDirective.js.

Now, let’s write the directive. A directive is just an object with a few special functions on it.

AnnoyingBackgroundDirective.js

import Vue from 'vue';

const defaultBackgroundColor = '#86bbff'

// Initialize the annoying-background directive.
export const AnnoyingBackground {
  bind(el, binding, vnode) {
    // Allow users to customise the color by passing an expression.
    const color = binding.expression || defaultBackgroundColor

    // el might not be present for server-side rendering.
    if (el) {
      // Set the element's background color.
      el.style.backgroundColor = color
    }
  }
}

// You can also make it available globally.
Vue.directive('annoying-background', AnnoyingBackground)

Now to use it in a component, simply add it to your component template prefixed with a v-.

TotallyNormalComponent.vue

<template>
  <div>
    <p v-annoying-background>Baby blue looks good on me.</p>
    <p v-annoying-background="#0f0">I prefer neon green.</p>
  </div>
</template>

<script>
import { AnnoyingBackground } from './AnnoyingBackgroundDirective.js';

export default {
  directives: {
    AnnoyingBackground
  }
}
</script>

More Details

A directive has five possible hooks:

  • bind(element, binding, vnode) - Called when the directive is first bound to the component or element.
  • inserted(element, binding, vnode) - Called when the component or element is inserted into it’s parent node. It may not be in the DOM yet.
  • update(element, binding, vnode, oldVnode) - Called when the containing component has updated but potentially before its children do.
  • componentUpdated(element, binding, vnode, oldVnode) - Called when the containing component has updated but after its children do.
  • unbind(element, binding, vnode) - Called when the directive is unbound from the component or element.

The arguments are these:

  • element - The element the directive is bound to. May be undefined.
  • binding - (This is the fun one.) Contains any arguments, values, and modifiers passed to the directive.
    • binding.name - The name of the directive.
    • binding.value - The value of a JS expression passed to the directive, if any. (ie. v-directive="{cake: 'chocolate'}" -> binding.value.cake === 'chocolate')
    • binding.oldValue - The previous value of the directive, only provided in update and componentUpdated.
    • binding.expression - The value expression as a string: v-directive="{cake: 'chocolate'}" -> binding.expression === '{cake: 'chocolate'}'
    • binding.arg - The argument passed to the directive, if any. v-directive:myArg -> binding.arg === 'myArg'
    • binding.modifiers - An object containing any modifiers passed to the directive as booleans. v-directive.modifier.modifier2 -> JSON.stringify(binding.modifiers) === {"modifier": true, "modifier2": true}
  • vnode - This is a virtual node used by Vue’s renderer. Don’t touch this unless you know what you’re doing. :P
  • oldVnode - The previous version of the above vnode. Only available in the update hooks.

So yeah, directives are really simple to create, but you can do a lot of crazy stuff with them if you so wish. Here’s the documentation.

Bonus Round

  • Try creating a conditional directive! Hint: You’ll probably need to hook into the vNode API. Sorry.
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